Streaming hours didn't kill Star Trek: Lower Decks

Star Trek: Lower Decks lasted for five seasons; clearly the amount of time it was watched didn't kill the show.
Dragon Con 2023
Dragon Con 2023 / Terence Rushin/GettyImages

Let's be very honest about why Star Trek: Lower Decks was canceled, and it's not because of streaming hours. Some people are claiming that's why; due to Lower Decks only having 20+ minute episodes instead of 40+ minute episodes, Lower Decks streaming hours are lower. And they'd be right. If three million people watch 10 episodes of Strange New Worlds as opposed to the same amount of people watching Lower Decks, Strange New Worlds will have been watched for twice as long.

That's simple math. Here is some other simple math, streaming hours is a gimmick. It's not actually what streaming providers care about. It's just the number they report usually. A show will be retained if it's engaging with more people. You could have 100k people watching how nonstop and its streaming hours will be up, but if you have 3 million people watching a different show just once; guess which show is getting renewed?

Streaming hours is a gimmick used by streaming services to bury how few people are watching these services. It's why every single one of them is unable to turn a profit. The only exception is Hulu. Netflix, Paramount+, Disney+, and every other streaming service you can think of is in massive amounts of debt.

Why? Because very few people are actually watching their content. Let's look at some real world examples to justify the stance; PewDiePie and Mr. Beast, two of the largest YouTubers ever. PewDiePie has 111 million subscribers, while Mr. Beast has 252 million. PewDiePie's recent videos curry maybe two percent of his subscriber base. Mr. Beast is doing better at about half.

So we've established that subscriber amounts for streaming services don't actively engage in all of the content all the time. So let's say Paramount+ has 65 million subscribers, it's fair to say that maybe a 10th of that is actively using the platform at any given time. Between the news, movies, live sports, new content, and old, you'll be lucky to garner any real audience. Everything is way too spread out and there are far too many options.

If you report that your show is only getting 200k viewers per episode, that's going to look atrocious, so the workaround is that you report "total hours watched". Because if you have a show with four seasons, 80 episodes total, about 40 minutes an episode, you can say that the show had nearly 11 million hours of content watched. That sounds huge. Until you realize that to watch every minute of every episode would take you 3,200 minutes or 53.33 hours. So if 200k people are watching your entire series, you can say that you had nearly 11 million hours of streaming for just one show's lifespan.

That sounds impressive, except it's not. Streaming companies know how many people are actually watching a show, and that's all that matters. If a show costs too much money and isn't bringing in the viewers, that show is getting canceled.

Streaming hours is a way to bury how bad a service is actually doing by combining relevant and irrelevant data into a seemingly impressive-sounding nugget of information. For instance, Wednesday did well, with a reported 440 million hours streamed in the first week, yet assuming everyone just watched every episode once, that's just 55 million people. More than likely we could argue at least a fifth if not more re-watched the show and while still Impressive, those are Game of Thrones numbers.

But if you put it in hours viewed, it sounds like something never done before.

So when you realize that the hours don't matter, you start to realize why shows like Lower Decks get canceled; they cost too much for the audience it's bringing in. It's not some crazy mathematical equation that needs decades to decyper. It's common sense. If Lower Decks was cheaper to make, or more popular, it would likely be getting a sixth season.

It may never have been that popular, but Paramount+ was throwing a lot of other people's money at projects to try and get people to tune in. That meant overspending on shows that would either 1) never get greenlit in the first place or 2) wouldn't have lasted as long as they did.